This project uses materials that you probably already have at home, or can easily find in your drug store. The only specialty item is a brayer, but without it you’d never expose your kids to the experience of true printmaking.
Printing from styrofoam plates can help children learn that they can upcycle everyday materials into beautiful objects and teaches them patience and planning as they work through multiple steps to reach a desired outcome.
What is a Brayer?
A brayer is a tool, similar to a paint roller, that allows you to apply ink evenly to a large area. You can find brayers in art stores or order them online. I have a few different brayers, and I don’t think you need to go for the most expensive version. This Speedball Deluxe 4-Inch Hard Rubber Brayer is a really good brayer that will do everything you need.
If brayers seem like an item that you’ll only use once or twice, you’ll be surprised at how addictive printmaking can be and you may find that your kids will make excuses to experiment with them. My own kids (ages 2 and 4) are always eager to tinker with our brayers.
- Styrofoam plate
- Copy Paper
- Paper tape, like masking tape
- Tempera or Poster Paint
- Cookie Sheet or Piece of Acrylic
- Paper or tablecloth to cover workspace
- Cut the rim off the styrofoam plate.
- Place the stryrofoam circle on top of a sheet of tracing paper, and trace around the circle.
- Remove the plate.
- Draw a picture or design on the copy paper. Avoid drawing small details that will disappear when printed.
- Tape the drawing on top of the plate.
- Retrace your drawing, pushing hard enough to press into and make a mark on the plate.
- Remove the paper.
- Retrace the drawing on the styrofoam plate, creating deep grooves in the plate.
- Roll a small amount of paint onto the cookie sheet or piece of acrylic, and then roll the paint over the styrofoam plate.
- Cover the plate with a piece of copy paper, and press it down firmly with your whole hand.
- Remove the paper to reveal the printed magic.
- Repeat as desired.
My 4-year old saw the circular shape of the plate and took it as an opportunity to make a spider web. She’s also sort of obsessed with Halloween, so spiders it was! When drawing the designs, encourage your child to avoid tiny details, as they won’t show up well in this printing process.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my 2-year old got in on the action too. I gave her a pencil to draw directly onto the plate, and then she happily rolled paint with it. The printing part wasn’t that interesting to her, but the process of rolling was tops.
We stored our finished prints on another table. I recycled all the messy scrap paper, sprayed the table down, and dropped the brayers and sheet of acrylic into the sink. Done!